How Gen-Y Employees Can Handle Negative Stereotypes

Tips for millennials hoping to combat their most damning stereotypes.

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Ben Weiss
Ben Weiss
There are countless examples of the establishment criticizing the style or behavior of a new order on the up. In music, swing icon Louis Armstrong strongly disparaged bebop cats when the style was developing, much as classic turntablists currently criticize producers and disc jockeys who perform with advanced technology and software. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon has penetrated the modern workforce in the negative stereotypes many baby boomers and Gen-Xers associate with Gen-Y or millennial colleagues.

This idea was quantified in the recent "The Gen-Y Workplace Expectations Study" by Millennial Branding and American Express. The study found that while millennial employees generally think positively about their managers, those more mature managers have negative associations about millennial underlings and co-workers. The findings are included in "Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success," written by Millennial Branding's founder Dan Schawbel.

Considering such, let's take a closer look at two of the major negative stereotypes millennials are likely to face in the workforce, why those stereotypes exist and how they can be addressed.

1. Millennials aren't loyal. The Future Workplace's 2012 study "Multiple Generations @ Work" found that 91 percent of the millennials surveyed expected to stay in a job for less than three years. Consequently, pejorative associations have arisen that Gen-Y employees are loyal only to themselves and will jump ship for another opportunity the moment a job has become anything less than ideal.

Solution: Think inside the box. There are plenty of compelling reasons that might lead a professional to seek a new employer. However, Teddy Dziuba, a 29-year-old new business/underwriting manager who has stayed at his post at a Massachusetts-based wealth management firm for a half decade, points out that many of his peers are compelled to seek new opportunities not because they're in a bad environment but because of their hyperactive wiring. "It is not enough for millennials to be sitting at a computer completing a spreadsheet," he says. "They have to be checking Facebook, listening to iTunes, sending a text message and Snapchatting a photo of their cluttered desk WHILE working on that spreadsheet. This is not a slight on my peer group, it is just an unfortunate compulsion to have constant and varied stimuli, which also causes millennials to get tired of the status quo very easily and seek new challenges via new employment opportunities."

To break this first negative stereotype, millennials might consider thinking inside the box, by exploring if those new challenges and stimuli can be attained at their current job, before deciding that hitting the job boards is the only effective solution. "Try to make the most out of your situation before moving on because maybe you're able to transition to a different position in the same company or even create a new position," Schawbel says.

Should any of these alternative tactics prove possible, then you'll have the resources to show a meaningful tour and upward progression with a single employer. With that kind of track record it becomes much harder to suggest you can't play it the company way.

2. Millennials don't respect hierarchy. Millennials are arguably most notorious for being "the trophy generation;" a group rewarded consistently by helicopter parents for mediocre performance, as a way to shield damaged feelings. This perspective worries many more seasoned professionals who believe that because of their soft upbringing, millennials expect to be a part of executive discussions at work without a track record, disregarding the time and energy required to climb the ladder and earn prestigious distinction.

Solution: Win a race before asking for the trophy. Sources like TheLadders report the workforce may be evolving toward a less hierarchical structure, since the fastest growing jobs shy away from managerial responsibilities and instead call for detailed subject expertise. Still, millennials need to remember to prove themselves by engaging in all the behaviors that earn new hires respect before asking for anything bigger or better.

This is the strategy 24-year-old Jacob Gallice used when he organically rose from a junior marketing coordinator role at Blood, Sweat and Cheers, a free daily email service of active events, to his current position as sales manager. Gallice put in hard time generating results and learning from his environment. "Several months into my tenure [as marketing coordinator], I was asked to step up and fill the higher level position [as sales manager]," he says. "It's important to prove yourself and your work ethic, rather than expect to start at the top. I think you should always achieve first and ask second. Put your head down and work your butt off. Then once you've shown what you can do, the higher level positions and discussions will often be presented to you in due course."

With that in mind, do what needs doing to quietly prove you're one of those rock star or ninja employees. Few would disagree that the runner who consistently comes in first place is deserving of the trophy.

Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions – an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.